Tuesday, June 20, 2006

First Exam

I gave my first exam last Thursday.
I may have mentioned that already.
What I haven't mentioned is that I finally had a chance to grade them. (Since it's the summer, and classes are smaller, I gave some short answer questions as well as the multiple choice; MC take longer to -- *ahem* -- want to grade.) My husband was watching television while I did. I got to a particular student and mentioned that I felt sorry for him; he'd shown up late that day.
My husband said I was a sap.
-What? Why??
-Because that's the way he wants you to feel. He wants you to feel sorry for him and give him a break.
-Well, but if I don't give him that break, am I still a sap?
Honestly, I don't remember his answer. I don't think I am, but he may still disagree with me.
The grades were kind of interesting; the distribution was verging on bi-modal, instead of normal.
Today, I handed them back. I wanted to go over them in class, because I want to keep them; it's possible I may use these questions again.
One student pointed out that I'd given him too high a score. Something I would do.
And then the ones who failed came up to talk to me. One student had actually sent an email early this morning, before the exam came back, but after I posted the grades on-line.
This student had a litany of excuses. No outward attempts to get me to give special consideration, but I'm sure trying to clear the way so that I would.
I felt sorry for the student. I did not offer special consideration, other than to work out what kind of grades were needed on the future assignments in order to get the desired grade.
After the class, after I'd packed up my laptop (you should see the high-grade bag I have for it *cough cough*), after I walked to my car, I realized what my husband had meant about me being a sap.
Because I was one. I believed the student's excuses.
And I had forgotten that this student spends about half the time in class instant messaging & talking with friends made in class.
But I was glad I had been a sap. Because I am a first-time teacher: I cannot win a battle of "This is how you should really behave in class" with a student. An established teacher might; a first-time will not.
And the fact that I had forgotten class behavior meant that I could help the student, instead of writing the student off, instead of pissing the student off because I didn't have the faith and conviction of the parents.
I love teaching because I love explaining. I love to help people understand. I love to help people do well.
I need to be a sap to do it. A sap with principles. But a sap nonetheless.


Blogger post-doc said...

I think you're exquisite. There's something special about giving people breaks - even ones that are largely undeserved. Yes, there should be a limit, but I think erring on the side of leniency when, as you say, you're finding your footing as a professor is quite lovely.

I would so take a class from you, and I don't even know what you teach.

Though I'll confess to a bit of envy over your having a husband who can point out characteristics like that. So good for him too. It's important to consider. :)

4:15 PM EDT  

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